Eloa Guillotin, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Aero

Eloa Guillotin, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Aero

Flying into the future with hydrogen power.

A dynamic French startup is shaking up the aviation industry, with its new hydrogen-powered electric planes. Its developments come at a crucial moment, too, as aircrafts continue to be one of the fastest-growing contributors to climate change.

In June, Eloa Guillotin, the 27-year-old co-founder and CEO of aviation startup Beyond Aero, revealed her company’s plans for a new hydrogen-powered electric aircraft. The presentation, which took place at the Paris Air Show, followed two and a half years of research and development, during which the startup was largely operating in “stealth mode”. Unveiling the design for the plane was also a chance for Guillotin to state her ambitions for the future: to launch an eight-person private jet by the end of the decade. Beyond that? To be part of a sustainable future for business – and commercial – aviation.

Guillotin, who grew up in a small town in western France and spent her youth playing sports and looking at the stars, has long wanted to work in space or aviation. It led her to the Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE) in Toulouse, where, after two years of aerospace studies, she met Hugo Tarlé, a co-founder of Beyond Aero. Soon after, they were joined by their third co-founder and chief strategy officer, Valentin Chomel, who had prior industry experience as an aviation engineer and abandoned his PhD in electrification technology to pursue this new venture.

Beyond Aero was officially formed at the end of 2020. The company has developed rapidly since then, benefiting from a number of seed rounds that brought its cumulative funding to $24 million. It is based in Toulouse and has a team of 32 – a combination of a younger, dynamic demographic and industry veterans. According to the company, it has potential buyers for more than 70 aircraft – with a total value of $580 million – which indicates strong future demand for greener air travel. 

Credit: © Beyond Aero 2023, Jean-Philippe Bellon Photographe

When it comes to decarbonisation, the aviation industry is at a pivotal moment. It is responsible for 2.5 per cent of global CO2 emissions, its emissions have increased by 4-5 per cent each year for the past decade and demand for air travel is still rising. Airlines have been slow to invest in alternatives – fossil fuels remain the cheapest – but progress is starting to show. Initiatives for planes powered by electricity and hydrogen have been around for more than 10 years, facing difficulities such as scalability, commercial vialability and the much larger fuel tanks needed for hydrogen, but solutions are also advancing fast. In October 2022, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) announced a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, setting a benchmark for the industry. 

One of the challenges, says Guillotin, is navigating the pressure to advance at pace. “Sometimes the expectation as a startup is to deliver an aggressive timeline – clients, investors want to see the growth rates now.” When it comes to aviation, however, there is a lengthy certification process by the authorities, much of which focuses on safety. “We have to follow it,” she says. “Otherwise, we can make a prototype but it will never be certified.”

“Sometimes the expectation as a startup is to deliver an aggressive timeline – clients, investors want to see the growth rates now.”

This means incremental developments in its tech, such as, where the fuel tanks are placed and how the cells are cooled down, as Guillotin explains. The prototype that Beyond Aero has developed so far is for an 85 kilowatt engine – enough to power a two-seater jet – and it is now scaling up to a 500kw engine. This sort of technology is already used in electric trucks and boats. Gaseous hydrogen, sold in tanks, is put through a fuel cell that takes oxygen from the outside air for a chemical reaction that creates water, generating heat and electricity in the process. The electricity powers the motor, which turns the propeller and creates the traction required to fly the plane. Simulations and tests for the various components will continue for some time – several years – before a flying prototype is ready. The final plane will have a 1.4 megawatt powertrain, a top speed of 575km per hour and a range of 800 nautical miles, making it suitable for travel between European cities. Short-haul flights like these currently account for 17 per cent of flying emissions.

Beyond Aero is focused on a particular slice of the aviation market – business travel. Its mission is to make the first certifiable private aircraft with hydrogen electric propulsion, but it is also to be profitable. There are more than 23,000 jets in the world, says Guillotin, who estimates it as a $30 billion market. Critics of air travel often point to private jets as an excess, but Guillotin sees the startup as part of a broad spectrum of innovation required to push the industry forward. “Some companies are working on regional aircraft, some are doing commercial aircraft… but what we are all doing is working on the electrification of aviation with different strategies,” she says. “It is great, though, because eventually you need to try 200 things just to get 10 to work.”

Credit: Alan Novelli / Alamy

Eloa Guillotin

CO-Founder and CEO, Beyond Aero

Begins an aeronautic engineering degree in aircraft design at the Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE) in Toulouse, from which she graduates in 2020


Completes an MSc in corporate finance and entrepreneurship at the École Polytechnique, then starts an Entrepreneurs MSc at HEC Paris


Joins an exchange programme with the University of California, Berkley, in entrepreneurship and technology, before co-founding Beyond Aero in December


Receives a boost in seed funding, bringing Beyond Aero’s cumulative funding to $24 million, and unveils a new hydrogen-powered electric aircraft

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